Sotheby's 'Impressionist and Modern Art' auction on February 9 produced a headline grabbing result, selling a classic Picasso for over $40m. In an extraordinary evening for collectors and alternative investors, several of the Spanish surrealist pioneer's works were sold, but one exceptional lot wowed the auction audience.
The work in question was 'La Lecture', an oil painting from 1932. The piece depicts Picasso's lover and muse Marie-Thérèse Walter asleep in an armchair, a half-read book resting on her lap. It exhibits the classic curves, swirls and Arabesques the artist was famous for, and is symbolic of his iconic portrayals of sex, love and desire.
The painting was one of many Picasso created of Walter. They met in 1927, when Picasso took Walter's arm in the streets of Paris declaring, "I am Picasso! You and I are going to do great things together". He wasn't lying.
Their relationship underpinned and inspired one of Picasso's most fertile and creative periods; the artist's obsession with Walter contrasted with his stormy marriage to Olga Khokhlova. The artistic results were stunning - 'La Lecture' is a prime example of this.
The painting has impeccable provenance and was widely exhibited over the last 80 years, eventually making its way into a private collection in 1996. Yesterday's event marked its first sale since then, and it did not disappoint.
After a frantic auction involving six bidders, the initial estimate of £12m-18 was smashed, with the painting going under the hammer for a wonderful £25,241,250 ($40.7m). It was secured over the telephone by an anonymous buyer.
Of course, astonishing sales of this kind are only open to a rather exclusive club of collectors. However, as we highlighted recently, even Picasso is potentially affordable for entry-level art investors. Like this example, for instance...
Meanwhile, Sotheby's sale suggests that the Spanish artist's popularity and critical acclaim are likely to persist - making him an artist every serious art collector should aspire to invest in.
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